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Transplants may be your solution: By Ng Wan Chin.

BALDING can be a traumatic experience for anyone, but especially so for the young. Take Mr Bernard Chua, who started experiencing thinning and dropping hair from the age of 14. By the time he was doing his national service, he spent most of his time wearing a cap to hide the shiny spot on the […]

Written by haircentre

Posted on: January 1, 2008

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BALDING can be a traumatic experience for anyone, but especially so for the young.

Take Mr Bernard Chua, who started experiencing thinning and dropping hair from the age of 14.

By the time he was doing his national service, he spent most of his time wearing a cap to hide the shiny spot on the top of his head.

Said Mr Chua, a songwriter, now 29: ‘I was going from doctor to doctor, spending lots of money to try and get a solution.’

But the doctors said there was nothing he could do because it was hereditary. His father is also bald.

Until he happened to meet Dr Eileen Tan at Changi General Hospital a few years ago for an acne problem.

‘She told me a little about hair transplants and I researched it,’ he said.

It was expensive, but ‘I saw it as my last chance to help myself’.
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Last month, he went for a hair transplant procedure which took about nine hours at Dr Tan’s Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre clinic.

Dr Tan, a consultant dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon, used follicular unit extraction (FUE), a minimally invasive procedure for performing follicular unit hair transplantation on Mr Chua.

It is unlike the traditional follicular unit transplant procedure where a strip of donor tissue is removed and dissected under magnification.

The FUE procedure uses a small punch to extract each follicular unit one by one. The 1mm-hole left behind after the follicle is extracted then heals over the following week.

‘The patient ends up with hundreds of small round white scars, which are normally not detectable once the patient’s hair grows out,’ said Dr Tan.

The donor areas usually come from the back and sides of the scalp that are genetically programmed to grow for life. The follicles are transplanted one by one into the affected areas.

They will take root, and after a short resting period, will grow and keep on growing, said Dr Tan.

As hair growth is a very slow process, the transplanted hair growth become obvious only from the fourth or fifth month after the procedure and will grow about 1cm per month.
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This procedure is also effective for hair loss due to scars from radiotherapy, infections or scalp disease. It can also grow sideburns, eyebrows, chest and pubic hairs.

‘I have done it for patients who were born with asymmetrical eyebrows,’ said Dr Tan.

Mr Chua, who paid about $17,000 for his transplant, is still waiting to see results.

‘I hope it will be better than what I currently have and I won’t have to hide my hair loss anymore,’ he said.

FUE is generally twice as expensive as the traditional method. Depending on how severe the hair loss is, the cost starts from $5,000 to $6,000 per area of transplantation, said Dr Tan.

Hair transplantation has caught on here, especially in the last two years.

‘When I first came back from overseas training and was at CGH, we were doing five cases a month. Now we do about two cases a week,’ she said.

According to Dr R Sundarason, a plastic, cosmetic and hair transplant surgeon, FUE is time-consuming and costly compared to the traditional method.
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He said: ‘Depending on the surgeon’s skill, the follicles are more likely to be damaged with the FUE method. I think the percentage of successful follicle extraction is low.’

To Dr Tan, success depends on the skills of the surgeon and FUE simply offers patients another option if they do not want to have strip scars.

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